B&B Mine: Love Letters To Montreal

Graphic by Erin Sass


It’s February, and you know what that means: love is in the air. Granted, social distancing restrictions this year makes sharing the love a little more difficult. Thus, the art of crafting love letters assumes a whole new purpose.  It seems as though we all are partaking in a long distance relationship with the world we used to know, so we asked the editorial board of the Bull and Bear to reminisce on our favorite parts of the city Montreal. Because who says love letters are reserved for people? 

We asked our editorial team to spill their hearts out and tell us about the breathtaking, romantic, and downright bizarre parts of Montreal that we love and miss. (See if you can guess who wrote what before the signoff!)

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Dear Boulangerie Guillaume,

It’s hard to believe that it has been several months since I last laid eyes on your picturesque storefront. I think I always knew I was into bread, but I never understood true love until I met you. At first it was a mere fling, as I tried a few bites on a walk through the Mile End. But, once I decided to take things to the next step and bring you back to my place (so I could freeze your goodies and enjoy them later), then I really fell head over heels. 

You are the reason that I never walk north on St. Laurent without a very large tote bag, and also the reason for the constant fullness of my apartment’s small freezer. The provincial government considers your services essential, and truly, so do I. Although right now I must simply dream about meeting you again from afar, I look forward to visiting your bright yellow awning soon. Even through my 3-layered mask, I know I will be able to smell the delicious aroma of your baking. 

– Yours forever,  Maya Abramson

Photo by Rose Bostwick

Dear skating rinks in Parc Jeanne-Mance, 

Once, I had imagined spending this semester robbed of the outdoor spaces that had made my first semester bearable, staring into my bedroom on Zoom as the room darkened around me after 4 p.m. During my quarantine, as helicopters circled my apartment after the 8 p.m curfew, I felt like my fears had been confirmed.

But one day, my roommate changed everything. While she was showing me pictures of her snowy Ottawa childhood, I asked, “Is it okay for Canadians to say that they hate winter?” She replied that in Canada, we make do and have fun with the weather that we have. I realized then that there is a true cultural difference compared to the US. In Montreal, winter doesn’t stop people from living.

You might recognize me and my roommates. We head over several times a week with the hockey sticks we bought on Facebook Marketplace. You are the best part of my day. Despite having no hockey experience, and (in my case) wearing figure skates, experienced players have invited us to join pickup games. I’m not exactly impressive, but I’m improving— I even hold the stick properly now! More importantly, everyone is welcoming. Despite the many places in Montreal that we have lost, it’s life-affirming to remember our community spaces— like you. Every time we leave to return to our lives of early sunsets and online school, we are flushed and happy.

-Love, Rose Bostwick

Dear New Residence Première Moisson,

You never know what you have until it’s gone. Albeit, I didn’t have much when I had you, but you were there for me when no one else was, especially the New Rez dining hall, who decided to pull a fast one and refuse to serve breakfast for a few weeks in the beginning of the semester. 

Walking in and gazing upon the glass display case of slightly old sandwiches and pastries was the highlight of my day. Despite the limited array of choices and an electronic menu that moved too fast to be read, I always felt right where I was supposed to be, reaching out for my toasted caprese sandwich, which was more accurately, relatively warm. But as I made my way to the elevator to go enjoy my sandwich in the privacy of my room, the warmth of the delicacy was the closest I’ve ever gotten to holding hands with you, my dear Première Moisson. That, and when the iced coffee I ordered was not in fact iced, but extremely hot, which I appreciated nonetheless. The kindness of the employees was always appreciated. 

I know now that you are gone, never to return even after the pandemic. I hope you are still “toasting” caprese sandwiches up in coffee shop heaven. 

– Love, Sarah Sylvester

Dear Café Campus bathroom,

Long are the days when my nights involved running into you with tears welling in my eyes after slipping in a pool of beer in front of my crush. 

I remember my first weekend in Montreal like it was yesterday. A layer of sweat covered everything. The fog machine left a weird smell on the dance floor. “Ra-Ra-Rasputin” played as mysterious strangers danced around me. And there you were, my escape from the crowd. 

Since that fateful night, I have spent many (Tuesday) nights inside you. I long to step inside and hear the pounding music fade in the background, and stare into your mirrors with mascara making its way down my sweaty face while wearing a crop top stained with someone else’s body glitter. I miss running into strangers I recognize from Instagram and awkwardly saying hello to them. I miss struggling to fit myself and two of my friends into one of your stalls. I even miss avoiding eye-contact with the men’s bathroom next door, which never seemed to have a properly functioning door. Most of all, I miss the friends I made in the seemingly endless line that occupied the hallway outside your door. 

I look back on my memories at Café Campus with disgust, but also fondness. Part of me is hurt that I may never experience those nights in the same way again. Yet, at the same time, part of me is happy to move on to more fulfilling (and sanitary) experiences.

– Love, Linnea Vidger

Photo by Patricia Bochu for TimeOut Montreal

Dear TimeOut Market Montreal,

It’s hard to imagine you as you were: an entire floor of long family style tables, strangers packed shoulder to shoulder eating world-class food from all corners of the world—Haiti, Vietnam, Italy—talking, laughing. You represent the Montréal I want to return to so badly. 

You were crazy versatile. I could visit with friends after a long day shopping on Rue St. Catherine, for a date night, or just by myself, when I was craving a phenomenal bowl of ramen and an escape from the McGill bubble. I loved how I could find myself sitting between a family with toddlers and an elderly couple while indulging in some pasta, or next to a group of coworkers grabbing a drink together as I sipped on a cocktail. 

I especially miss your Love Local night, when I could browse booths upon booths featuring organizations campaigning for local causes and small businesses selling everything from homemade candles to prints to jewelry. You brought some of the best parts of the city together in one place, and it saddens me that you were only able to exist for a little over a year before we all had to press pause.

When you open again, I’m so excited to ride the escalator up into the little oasis of culture you’ve created in the middle of downtown for a bowl of pho, or a burger, or something brand new. I know it will be worth the wait.

– Love, Claire Chang

Dear Dispatch Coffee,

It’s hard to believe that we’ve spent so much time apart. When I left for exchange last December, I could never have imagined going a year without your toasty embrace. I’ll be honest, you’re not the best I’ve ever had, but there’s something about the overpriced and over-salted avo toast on rye that holds a special place in my heart.

I think it’s the nostalgia that keeps me coming back for more. Memories of first-year flood in every time I enter McConnell Eng, back to the days when you’d begrudgingly let me pay with OneCard after my 8:30am Poli class practically every other day. Or maybe it’s the consistency that does it, always knowing what to expect when I get in line in the middle of the foyer almost sure to be in someone’s way. Your baristas always seem to be hipster Australians in tiny hats, your cappuccinos never fail to taste vaguely like blueberries, and the windowsill one sits on in that first floor hallway while eating it always screams “eng building.” 

Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I would never choose Premiere Moison over you. Longing for the day I can tell you to “hold the toppings” once again. 

– All my love, Double Espresso Girl (Andie Habert)

Photo by bricoleurbanism, courtesy of Creative Commons

Dear McGill Lower Field, 

This one comes easy, because I know just how much you are loved by not only me, but by all students at McGill. And that’s just fine, because this truly is a love that is meant to be shared. Some of the happiest and seemingly easiest days of my life have been spent lying on your green grass, albeit poorly cut, bedraggled, and oftentimes sopping wet, laughing next to friends with a cold one in hand at the Open Air Pub. Regardless of which band was playing, or how long the lines were, or how packed you were with people, you stood strong, like a pillar of excellence among the other campus facilities. 

A serene setting to take in the business of the city, a hockey rink, a student bar, a study spot, a soccer pitch. You never really were just a campus quadrangle. Cold or warm, wet or dry, icy or muddy, while you lie quietly under a blanket of snow, just know that I miss you. 

– Love, forever and always, Rohan Roy

Dear Café Castel,

For the longest time, you were my sanctuary. Only a minute away from the Bronfman Building, stepping through your doors was like stepping into another world. You were so loud. The continuous flow of conversation, to the ringing of the barista’s bell, to overwhelming sounds of your coffee machines brewing, man, were you just so loud. Yet, oddly enough, within the chaos, within your noise, was a sense of peace. A sense of culture and an energy so outside the “grind or die” mindset instilled in each and every McGill student from day one. There were no assignments, no deadlines within your walls—just coffee and conversation. 

I think fondly on our days together. After a stressful midterm or an excruciating lecture or just a downright terrible, no good day, I could just walk through your doors, order my 2-dollar coffee, find my comfortable seat in the corner, and just sit and watch as the world passed by me. 

I hope you’ve been well, Castel. I know it’s been many days since your doors have opened, but I hope you’ve been well. You were a home to many, so please, take care of yourself in this home stretch. Keep your chairs comfortable, the coffee hot, and the bell ready. Soon, I’ll be back.

– Love, Youcef Sahnoune

Photo by Gene Arboit, courtesy of Creative Commons

Dear Bar Quizzes,

Baby, it’s been a while. It pains me to remember the days when I would pass you up to stay at home alone. I promise if you come back to me I’ll never make that mistake again. My head is so very full of useless knowledge and without you, that useless knowledge has nowhere to go. 

I miss coming to you late because I had to go buy pens. I miss spilling a whole pitcher of beer on my team’s answer sheet. I miss my friends and I putting our heads together and whispering the answer to one another from a distance of fewer than two meters. 

The irony is that in the time we’ve spent apart, I have exponentially multiplied my stocks of random facts. Now more than ever, I am ready to win you. Gabe’s middle name on The Office is Susan. The capital of Australia is Canberra. These are only a couple examples of the knowledge I am prepared to bring to you when I can once again compete.

I’ll never forget the special times we shared, Bar Quizzes. I hope I can see you again very soon.

– With all my love, Sarah Manuszak

Dear Portuguese Community Association of Canada,

It was a particularly snowy Valentine’s Day, but that didn’t stop us from crossing paths. I was walking southward along Rue St. Urbain with a friend, when suddenly we stumbled by your brick facade. The stained glass windows were ablaze with light, and I could hear the faint sound of mid-2000s pop music blaring upstairs. Drunken men and women drifted out of the centre’s doors wearing  sleek, black tuxedos and flaming red dresses. A middle-aged lady wearing dollar-store party glasses opened the door wide open and beckoned, “Are you coming in or not?”

In a split decision, we looked at each and nodded. Then, we drunkenly stumbled up the community centre’s stairs. Within minutes, we were bopping to “Hey Baby” on the dance-floor of a banquet hall, surrounded by elderly, formally-attired partygoers. No one knew who we were or even checked to see if we had tickets; there was too much love — and bright pink confetti — in the air to care. This is the Montreal I miss, and the one I am distancing for. The one where two undergraduate students can crash the tail end of a Portuguese Community Centre’s annual Valentine’s Day Party, and no one bats an eye. Where spontaneity, warmth, and fun prevails over meticulous plans. Let’s dance solo for now, so we can all revel together next year. 

– Sinceramente, Sam Shepherd

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